What experts want parents to know about COVID hospitalizations in children

A record number of children have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the midst of the ongoing omicron rise. An average of 797 children were hospitalized daily over the past week – double the number from just two weeks ago. And overall pediatric cases continue to rise.

These numbers are a discouraging setback in a pandemic that has been pushing parents to their breaking point for two years now, and the situation is likely to worsen as omicron continues its rapid spread across the United States.

But there is also good news for parents to hold on to, and an important context for everyone to be aware of when it comes to overturning disturbing headlines. Here’s what parents need to know about the current rise and admissions, and what to do if your own child tests positive.

It is serious if a child is hospitalized. But the respiratory virus is nothing new.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks new hospitalizations of children with confirmed COVID-19 cases – not necessarily direct admissions because of the. So some kids who are included in its latest counts have been admitted for something else but find that they are positive due to routine tests.

However, others are admitted specifically to deal with COVID-19 complications. This means that they receive treatments that are only available at the hospital, explained Dr. Danielle Zerr, a specialist in infectious diseases at Seattle Children’s in Washington, or that they need close monitoring.

“What we see in our own hospital is that the hospitalization of children with acute COVID-19 is the highest ever, but the vast majority of these are patients who are admitted to the emergency departments. We have very little need for critical care at the moment compared to previous waves, ”said Zerr.

Many children require oxygen and close monitoring, she explained. Others may need fluids because they have become dehydrated while sick. This is the type of treatment that children often receive if they are hospitalized due to other respiratory viruses, such as RSV or severe tick.

So yes, it’s serious. But parents can take comfort in knowing that doctors have extensive experience in treating children for acute respiratory disease and the overall pediatric mortality rates from COVID-19 remain extremely low.

Children under 5 years of age and those with underlying disorders have the highest risk of hospitalization.

The current rate of pediatric hospital admissions is more than 4 in 100,000 for children under 5 years of age and about 1 in 100,000 for children aged 5 to 17, It writes the Associated Press.

Anecdotally, health care providers say the split is reflected in their own hospitals.

“I see more children under the age of 5 who have symptoms and need to be hospitalized than I have seen in previous waves here in New York,” he said. Margaret Aldrich, director of pediatric infection control at Montefiore Children’s Hospital in New York City.

It’s too early to say why that is, but Aldrich has a strong suspicion that it’s because they’re too young to be eligible for vaccination. (Pfizer has expanded its clinical trials with younger children to test the effectiveness of a third dose, but children under 5 may not be eligible for a shot before March or April.)

“I can not tell you with 100% certainty that this is the case, but when I look at what is happening here, it is a big concern for me,” Aldrich said. Recent data from the state of New York seems to support her. More than half of New York’s recent pediatric admissions is in children 4 and under who are too young for vaccines. In addition, the majority of children over the age of 5 who have been hospitalized in recent weeks are unvaccinated.

It is also possible that younger children are at additional risk for more serious complications simply because their physiology is different. This applies to other respiratory viruses, like RSV, which tends to be more risky for younger children. But experts like Aldrich say it is too early at the moment to have a complete picture of what is happening.

It is also important to keep in mind that nationally, most children who are hospitalized have an underlying condition of some kind.

“ONEabout 55% of hospitalized children had an underlying condition, according to the CDC. These included obesity, asthma, neurological disease, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune and immunosuppressive conditions, chronic lung disease, metabolic disease, gastrointestinal disease and hypertension, ”said Carla Garcia Carreño, Head of Infectious Diseases at the Pediatric Center Plano.

If your child tests positive, contact their pediatrician.

If your child tests positive, take a deep breath. Remind yourself that in general, omicron is milder than previous variants. It is likely that more children will be hospitalized right now simply because more children will be infected in the first place.

“The Omicron variant is about three times more contagious than the delta variant,” Carreño said. “Against this background, we are seeing a very important increase in the number of cases. As the number of cases in society increases, pediatric cases will in turn also increase.”

Once you have spent a moment gathering your thoughts, contact your child’s health nurse, says the CDC. They will be able to talk you through the next steps and discuss any underlying risk factors your child may have. Also, try to separate your child from other family members as much as possible.

For otherwise healthy children who are likely to recover completely, it is still worth doing what you can help your child’s body fight the disease: Make sure they get plenty of rest and that they are well hydrated. You may want to offer over-the-counter medications to help your child cope with fever or pain – but again, these are all things your child’s doctor can guide you through.

Although they are very rare, you also know the red flags you need to be aware of.

“If your child develops difficulty breathing, chest pain, confusion or lethargy, discolored skin (pale, gray or blue), signs of dehydration (dry mouth, no tears, decreased urination) or inability to take fluid through the mouth, you should go in case of emergency. medical care immediately, “Carreño said.

Vaccination is the best protection against serious illness.

If your child is in an eligible age group, get them vaccinated and boosted, the experts interviewed for this piece urged everyone. Only 23% of children in this country between the ages of 5 and 11 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 63% of 12-17 year olds have. Adolescents were also recently eligible for a booster dose if it is five months since their last shot.

For all children – including those who are too young to be eligible for vaccines – remember the basic preventative measures that have helped stop the spread of the virus since its inception. Mask up in a public setting (now is a good time to consider getting your child a higher filtration mask instead of just a cloth, Zerr said). Keep social distance as much as possible, and make sure your child washes their hands often.

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available at the time of publication, but the guidance may change as scientists discover more about the virus. please Check Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up-to-date recommendations.

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